Edited by Shivani Gosai • Photographs from Michael Fornataro
After working at multiple restaurants, I can truly say I’ve never seen one perform and operate the way Umi, a traditional Japanese sushi restaurant in Shadyside, has with such precision and care. A great dining experience is more than just exquisite food and drink; it is ultimately carried out by service done with passion.
Larry Bridge is the epitome of Umi’s ambition, and is someone who considers his job much more than waiting tables. Bridge has been serving at Umi for 13 years, and sincerely loves his job. Because of his enthusiasm, attention to detail and hospitality, patrons at Umi have fallen for him as well.
From previously working at Eleven, Bridge knew the Big Burrito franchise took fine dining seriously — and he instantly fell in love with Umi in 2005. “It’s a family relationship up at Umi. […] Very thankful of how they [Big Burrito] take care of their employees and their company,” says Bridge. Regulars at the restaurant have been coming backfor years to have a seat at Larry’s table. It’s amazing to watch how, every night, customers enter and greet him as though he is part of their family. And when they leave, they offer him a hug and sincere thank you, leaving more than satisfied. The impact Bridge has had on Umi’s customers is unparalleled.for years to have a seat at Larry’s table. It’s amazing to watch how, every night, customers enter and greet him as though he is part of their family. And when they leave, they offer him a hug and sincere thank you, leaving more than satisfied. The impact Bridge has had on Umi’s customers is unparalleled.
“I like to build relationships with people, especially at Umi because it’s a special spot, like people come up there not just for dinner — they come there for an experience. And that’s what I like to provide,” said Bridge.
Fine dining does not have to be serious and strict. In fact, Bridge is probably the complete opposite. He wants his customers to be entertained during their evening at Umi because his job is fun for him as well. Bridge is most often laughing and joking with his tables, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t efficient when it comes down to taking care of them.
There are not many servers that are credited for the hard work they do. And not many customers can say that their server has changed the way they dine.
When it comes to taking care of those at his table, Bridge would ideally prefer to have his customers put their fate in him for the night, “I love when people put their trust in me. […] Just providing a meal that they don’t have to think about, there’s so many different things on the menu and people sometimes get a little intimidated […] They don’t have to make a decision on what to get because I did it for them, and that’s the most satisfying to me, when they trust me to make their meal and at the end of the night they say “That was amazing.”
Having a diligent server who has expert knowledge of the menu can offer a rare and exciting dining experience. Of course, Bridge acknowledges that his love for the job wouldn’t be possible without Umi’s executive chef Mr. Shu and his talent on producing incredible dishes:
“You can’t get any food like that anywhere in Pittsburgh. To know you work in a special place like that — it brings a sense of pride.”
Here’s what Bridge recommends for those new to Umi:
For people who don’t enjoy sushi or sashimi, (although Bridge heavily insists on trying some and will do his best to convince you) he recommends the teriyaki steak or chicken, or the miso Black cod.
Bridges absolute favorites on the menu include the special Scallop sashimi, the Sawara with garlic and ponzu, and the Red snapper with truffle oil.
A majority of those in the restaurant industry are overlooked for the job they do. Not everyone can spend hours on their feet to make sure their customer is content and comfortable. I’m happy to recognize my co-worker as one of the best, because he goes above and beyond to give his customers an experience unique to Umi. The people who truly care, are always successful.
“I like to build relationships with people, especially at Umi because it’s a special spot, like people come up there not just for dinner — they come there for an experience. And that’s what I like to provide.” – Larry Bridge
umi Japanese Restaurant, 5849 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh. 412.362.6198. bigburrito.com/umi/